Anyone who bought today’s Western Mail will be in no doubt as to the stance held by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas on the referendum. The headline reads “Don’t rush law making referendum and mess it all up now”. The Presiding Officer and former leader of Plaid Cymru has always stuck with his conscience and is renowned for not always towing the party line, and today’s outburst is surely just another example. It’s not long remember since his position as Presiding Officer was in doubt following his comments about a newly appointed Israeli ambassador.
Lord Elis-Thomas says in the article that he feels 2011 is too soon to hold the referendum and believes that a vote on the future of law making powers in the Assembly should only be held when there is a clear 20% lead in the polls for the “Yes” campaign.
I wonder how his opinion sits with the rest of his party who have committed to a referendum at the start of or even before the 2011 term. I also wonder how his opinions will have been taken by Bethan Jenkins who (as is well documented by our blog) is desperately trying to get people thinking about a “Yes” campaign.
His timing seems a bit random to me. At this time of year no one is really concentrating on political news, what with shopping, wrapping and taking Woolworth sales to the cleaners to be done. Surely this is the worst time to make such a statement, if you want to make an impact? And with so long to go before the All Wales Convention reports back and no focus groups being held until January will people remember this article? I can’t see the Western Mail running the same headline again in five months' time. I’m not sure therefore that Lord Elis-Thomas is really achieving anything by doing this now.
He also takes the opportunity to have a swipe at Nick Bourne and his iPod by saying that it’s “reprehensible” that individuals receive allowances from Parliamentary bodies (although he accepts that he has benefited from this system) and is calling for a reform.
I suppose that the article will at least raise public awareness of the referendum debate, as it gets a good chunk of the Western Mail's front page. Whether people remember what he says however is another matter.
Interesting point you make about the Convention there, Dewi Un.
And I feel that Lord Elis-Thomas has neglected this issue a little. Surely the whole point of the AWC is to provide the opportunity for active campaigning from both sides before a referendum is held towards the end of the current Assembly term. Failure to do so would undermine the Convention's role and would take us into a new Assembly term under a new Government with a new agenda (in London as well as in the Bay).
Where the devolution debate then goes from there will be anybody's guess.